Countdowns and Hairy Coos

“For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary.” – Diana Gabaldon

I’ve read countless books detailing fairy-tale settings, immersed myself in music that evokes surreal emotions, and viewed photographs that stir a sense of longing and familiarity I can’t quite put my finger on, but nothing could have prepared me for the wonder of Scotland’s countryside. I found myself quite speechless.

Last week, my friend Dallas and I trekked up to Edinburgh for Hogmanay. Celebrations began on December 30 with a torchlight procession through the streets. I still can’t believe that with 75,000 people, of questionable sobriety, no one’s hair caught on fire.

Torchlight procession

Before the next evening’s famous street party, we wandered up the Royal Mile and stumbled upon a castle. This is one thing about Europe that may never cease to amaze me – how do you just “stumble upon” castles? Needless to say, they’re in pretty short supply in Canada.

Edinburgh castle

View near Edinburgh castle

The fantastic DJ, the dancing our faces off surrounded by 75,000 other people from around the world, the fireworks, and the general “Isn’t it awesome to be here” vibe all added up to the best NYE I’ve ever had.

But the best was yet to come. After a relatively quiet New Year’s Day (we still managed to rouse ourselves for a tour of Stirling Castle, an hour outside Edinburgh), we woke bright and early on January 2 for a day trip through the Highlands.

Stirling Castle

This is truly the stuff of fairy tales, I tell ya. Writers take note: if you need some inspiration for a setting for your fictional novel, do a retreat here!

Highlands3 Highlands2 Highlands1 Highlands Highlands5

Much to our dismay, we didn’t see a hairy coo (a Highland cow) up close and personal, but this didn’t put a damper on the day. The tour ended at Loch Ness – I unfortunately  have no sightings to speak of, but the body of water certainly did have a mysterious air about it.

Loch Ness2 Loch Ness

I never expected Scotland to be such a highlight in my travels, but it now hovers pretty darn close to the top. And I will be returning – next time for a writing retreat, perhaps. Any takers?

Namaste 🙂
Rachel

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The First Christmas Abroad, and All That Jazz

“May the New Year bring you courage to break your resolutions early! My own plan is to swear off every kind of virtue, so that I triumph even when I fall!” – Aleister Crowley

Nothing beats the last week of the year, just after Christmas and before New Year’s. I set aside an evening, just me and my favourite jazz and a bottle of wine, to go through journals and reflect on the year before starting a fresh new journal and filling the first few pages with musings on my desires and goals for the year ahead. Ah, I’m such a cheeseball at heart, but it just starts the year off on a good note.

Speaking of cheeseballs, I sure missed my mom’s this year. And her baking. And her turkey. My waistline is thanking me though. I survived my first Christmas away from home. One hurdle down. And though it was strange and not something I’d like to repeat next year (I’ll start looking at flights for next Christmas soon, Mom!), the last few days reminded me that distance is truly a non-issue when it comes to feeling the love of family and friends.

Enjoying the festivities in Trafalgar Square.

Enjoying the festivities in Trafalgar Square.

I'm terrible at night photographs, but these lights were dazzling. Christmas is truly magical in London. Where's my photographer roommate when I need him!

I’m terrible at night photographs, but these lights were dazzling. Christmas is truly magical in London. Where’s my photographer roommate when I need him!

I’m especially grateful this season for my friend Dallas, who made the trek across the ocean to spend Christmas with me. We celebrated with roast chicken (homemade by Waitrose), copious amounts of Baileys and mulled wine, and terrible (awesome) chick flicks. And thanks to the magic of Skype, we were able to invite our families into our little celebration for a few hours on Christmas Day.

It still felt Christmasey, even miles from home.

It still felt Christmasey, even miles from home.

A feast for two

A feast for two.

On Tuesday we’re heading to Edinburgh for the famous Hogmanay celebration, and I’m fairly bursting with excitement. After the festivities (and the day of sleep that I’m sure will be much needed), we’ll spend a few days touring Scotland. Pictures and an update to follow.

It’s certainly a resolution to begin blogging on a regular basis again, so I hope to connect with you all in the new year. From my cheeseball heart to yours, have a wonderful holiday season. Wishing you so much joy for 2015.

Namaste 🙂
Rachel